VOICE May 2016 - page 3

Apology and then learning from the mistake seems
to be the most honest and best option.
Through our conversations Sonia and I learnt that
besides apology, humour is another way to deal
with our unconscious bias. The British are
renowned for their ‘dry’ or even ‘ironic’ sense of
humour.
But humour is not typically something that you
would associate the Germans with, however, Sonia
talks about a German colleague who often uses the
phrase ‘war room’.
If any other non-German colleague used this phrase
they would be ‘putting their foot’ in it, but when a
German uses such a phrase they are doing so in a
purposeful way and it brings humour to the piece.
In a multi-cultural setting being aware of the
typically held beliefs about national traits and
reflecting them in a way that takes the ‘mickey’ out
of ourselves is an excellent way to recognise that we
all have biases.
We need to respect that and move on. It helps us
build rapport.
The challenge comes when people don’t respect the
differences, are not prepared to flex or learn and
ridicule others for their nationality or gender. They
have no motivation for changing and they become
critical of the situation they find themselves in. They
often don’t care if they ‘stick their foot’ in it. In this
situation the person needs to experience the
environment they find themselves in as much as
possible. They need feedback on their unconscious
biases to raise their awareness and, if possible
should receive specific coaching to help them.
I was asked to coach the Indian Country Manager of
an American owned company a few years ago. The
manager had received feedback that when they
spoke at Board meetings in the US and went out to
dinner after work with American colleagues they
were
saying
inappropriate
and
sometimes offensive things. They were
completely unaware of this
and didn’t realise that their
behaviours; all typical Indian
cultural ways, was having
such a negative effect.. ..
My job was to raise their
awareness of their own
cultural biases and then
compare them with those of
the US. We had some
fascinating
conversations
around American norms,
stark realisations on past
behaviour and a clear set of actions for the next
board meeting. The feedback on the coaching was
very good and the manager has gone on to explore
in more depth their own biases and the ways of
Americans. My observations as a coach of people
from many different cultures is that when they get
going with the cross-cultural coaching people get
fascinated by the differences and the complexities.
So the advice Sonia and I would give leaders is, be
self-aware and learn what your biases are. Work
with the situation you find yourself in, don’t fight it.
Continue to learn about the other gender and
different nationalities. Mediate, compromise, adapt
to the environment you find yourself in and have
fun doing it.
By Karen Frost
Director
of
Coaching
Values
Based
Leadership
and Sonia Belfield
Sonia began her career as a trainee manager with a
well known food retailer before progressing through
the operational route to pursue her career in HR.
Sonia completed her CIPD studies before completing
an MSc in Occupational Psychology (Psychology of
work) via distance learning. Sonia’s aim as a leader
is to ensure that she grows people to achieve their
best. On a personal level Sonia is a keen and competi-
tive horse woman.
Sonia Belfield
We recommend
“In a multi-cultural setting being
aware of the typically held beliefs
about national traits and reflecting
them in a way that takes the ‘mickey’
out of ourselves is an excellent way to
recognise that we all have biases.”
1,2 4,5,6,7
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